I-ride — the two-wheeler rental service launched on Saturday — is at best ironic and at worst a wilful overlooking of national urban transport policy (NUTP), feels a section of transport planners.
The NUTP calls for encouraging zero-carbon modes of mobility like cycling and walking and low-carbon solutions like buses and any other shared form of public transport.
"It is strange that AICTSL which oversees the Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) which is supposed to follow NUTP guidelines is renting out scooters and motorcycles. The move will increase motorized transport which is against the basic goals of NUTP," said an official who worked on the BRTS before being transferred to another department.
Rajendra Ravi, a Delhi-based activist who has long campaigned for democratization of road space by earmarking more space for pedestrians and cyclists, is "shocked" by the move.
"The AICTSL is supposed to look after bus operations. It is not their mandate to rent out scooters and motorcycles. This will increase the use of private vehicles instead of reducing it, which is the basic purpose of the BRTs," said Ravi, who works with the Saman Sadak Adhikar Abhiyaan (Equal Road Rights campaign), when contacted over the phone.
Ravi also pointed to the environmental and safety implications of the rental move. "Two-wheelers are the largest pollutants among all vehicles and people riding them suffer the highest number of fatalities," he pointed out.
A retired urban planner said it was difficult to promote the use of cycles as there were not sufficient facilities for them. "Abroad there are separate lanes and even overbridges reserved just for cyclists. Here someone riding a cycle has to make his way through fast-moving motorized transport," he said.
AICTSL chief executive officer Sandip Soni, however, said there was no "incongruence" between the NUTP and the decision to rent out scooters and motorcycles.
"These vehicles are not meant for use in the city but for tourists and for youngsters who want to go to, say Tinchha Falls or some other picnicking spot nearby," he told this reporter. They could also be used by "housewives who needed to make short-haul trips to the market for shopping."
"Our dream project is cycles (ibike). We hope to get 1,000 cycles on the road in one year," said Soni. He said the project got delayed because tenders had to be floated several times owing to the high costs. He dismissed suggestions that the launch of I-ride was a tacit admission that the BRT system had failed to properly cover the routes.